Okay, I admit it: the ABC show The Bachelor is my guilty pleasure. As I recover from a recent injury, an inordinate amount of my mostly bed-ridden time is spent thinking about the recent season of the franchise, starring Juan Pablo Galavis. And the truth is, I don't feel so guilty after watching this season.
The Bachelor typically features a group of 25 attractive (mostly white) women competing for the affections of one man, framed by the network to represent the ideal husband, complete with abs and chivalry. Although the bachelor usually spends a vague, sexual night with the three women without cameras, the show holds shockingly antiquated standards of female propriety, as has been noted by many before me.
Usually, women who sneak out to spend unscheduled sexy time with the bachelor are made out to be the villains; for example, Vienna of season 14 was called out for her “inappropriate” advances. Similarly, Courtney of season 16 was shamed for a sensual midnight dip with bachelor Ben. Most recent and fan-favorite bachelorette Desiree repeatedly asserted her modesty with the phrase, “I’m not that kind of girl.”
Bachelor alum Courtney got scolded for revealing her tatas
But this season, the show’s 18th, challenged the idea of female purity in a surprising episode in which contestant Clare invited him to swim and frolic with her in the ocean at 4 AM. Juan Pablo happily accepted, only to humiliate her the next day, telling her that he regretted the night and what it might mean to his young daughter.
Clare and Juan
The show had every chance to frame Clare as the villain here— she had already gotten in multiple fights with the other women— but instead ABC chose to highlight Juan Pablo’s slut-shaming ways, granting Clare almost unprecedented screen time to explain that she was deeply hurt; as she cried, she reminded us that it take two to engage in sexual activity. In that moment, Juan Pablo became the villain and Clare became the first woman on the franchise not to be faulted for her sexuality.
The season finale, which aired 2 nights ago, solidified The Bachelor’s unexpected shift towards less sexist ideologies. When Clare, the runner up, was kicked to the curb after a painful final date in which Juan told her off-camera that he didn't know her that well but “loved fucking [her],” she had no qualms about telling Juan exactly how she felt. As he came in for a hug, she stopped him: “I lost respect for you […] I would never want my children to have a father like you.” The live studio audience erupted in applause.
Clare lets Juan have it #yougogirl
The legendary host Chris Harrison also supported the show’s women, maintaining a professional demeanor while clearly appalled at Juan’s behavior. As my fiancé aptly put it, he “broke the fourth wall,” turning to the live audience, throwing his hands up, and laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing. Harrison always engages the audience, but this time was different; he watched the show with as much confusion and disgust as the audience did, as if to shrug and say, “I don’t know why we picked this guy either.”
Chris Harrison knows what's up
During the “After the Final Rose” reunion special, Harrison was polite but confrontational: “Do you regret [your treatment of the women]?” he asked the bachelor (Juan didn’t, sadly). At its close, he suggested that we “shower that [season and Juan Pablo] off” and introduced what might be a groundbreaking new season of The Bachelorette.
Set to premiere in May, the season stars Andi Dorfman, the woman who angrily dumped Juan after a distasteful overnight date in which he slept with her and then talked about himself and his sexual activities with another woman, refusing to engage her in intimate conversation. Andi is unlike any bachelorette we’ve seen before; the assistant district attorney brilliantly confronted Juan’s patronizing and disrespectful ways, revealing a very real moment of the assertive power of women. Brava, Andi; see you in May!
Of course the franchise has a long, long way to go in becoming truly progressive and even remotely inclusive, but this is progress. What do you think?
Images via CBS News, Speak Easy, Wet Paint, Daily Mail, Pop Watch